A military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, is credited to allow private media in Pakistan. He also promulgated a favorable legislation for the purpose in 2000-01. Since then, growth of television channels, radio stations, newspapers and magazines have provided the people several choices for getting information, entertainment and education. The private media has also contributed a lot in creating awareness on a number of issues.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) – a watchdog over private media – has now drafted some proposals to apparently regularize programming of the private media, especially some news channels. The watchdog says it has prepared some proposals to get approved from the government following complaints from people on certain cable news shows. The purpose is not to intimidate or restrict the media, but to help them protect the national interest while airing programs on certain issues.
Federal Information Minister Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, while responding to criticism of some anti-censorship media men, said there should be some rules and regulations for the media houses as it was not only better for them but also for the whole nation. Journalists are, however, dubbing the step as an effort of the government to stifle the media. They are of the view that the government wants to gag the media because general elections are approaching fast and the media often highlights the current government's poor performance.
Some senior journalists also see hand of intelligence agencies and powerful army of the country in stifling the media, as they have been under constant criticism for the past quite some time. Media is constantly highlighting saga of missing persons in the country, allegedly picked up by security and intelligence agencies of the country. Even apex court of the country has reprimanded sleuths for their involvement in extrajudicial killings in restive province Baluchistan and picking up innocent citizens from different cities of the country.
On the other hand, people of Pakistan have become politically aware owing to private media in the country. Around 89 private television channels are operating in the country while a number of others are still in pipeline. The same media that was granted freedom by Pervez Musharraf played a major role in his ouster and reinstatement of judges of superior judiciary. The dictator has abrogated the constitution and sent packing around 60 honest judges for upholding rule of law in the country.
Democracy is taking root in the country and political role of army generals is fast shrinking with every passing day, owing to a private and vibrant media. The government should understand the freedom of media is in theirs and country’s interests; therefore, it would be better to refrain from approving any harsh steps against the private television channels.